Google Apps constitute an unnecessary risk for business users
Google has been vigorously promoting the services available through Google Apps as acceptable IT solutions for business as well as personal usage. Yet the use of Google Apps introduces a number of extra rows to the risk column of a company"s Risk Analysis spreadsheet.
An essential consideration is security. Famously, the internal systems of the online company Twitter were recently hacked via Google Apps. But don't let this distract you from other essential issues; security isn't the only concern. For example, there's inherent risk simply in losing control over some of your data or files. Imagine a theoretical scenario in which government or military officials have migrated to Google Apps, and must urgently respond to some major emergency, only to find that the Internet connection is down...
Any external web site presents a security risk to users within a company. Web sites can be hacked in various ways. Furthermore, the Internet is a public, external network, thus any data sent or received is vulnerable. Even over a "secure" connection HTTPS with SSL there is no immunity from hackers. Importantly, however, the dangers of third-party online Apps or Cloud systems are not confined to the web. Related third-party software installed on the user's own machine is yet another risk, like buggy software provided by Google. A recent bug in the Google Apps Sync plugin prevented users from being able to find their emails -- all emails were affected, even emails which had nothing to do with Gmail.
Despite trusted brands and good PR winning over a number of early adopters, The era of Apps has not yet dawned, notwithstanding an impressive number of early adopters. Not every company has decision-makers who are immune to the seductive magic, or implicit safe feeling, that can be generated by combining ingredients such as a familiar brand, or a trendy idea, with ingenious marketing and PR. It all seems a lot like the parable of the children"s fairy tale, The Emperor"s New Clothes, in which it takes a while for everybody to realise that in fact the emperor is naked and it was all a bit of a con. The staff at these companies carry on as normal, rather like carefree lambs ready for slaughter. Eventually a truck will come to take them to the abattoir.
The proportion of companies where somebody in a position of power doesn't get the dangers of Google Apps is small. Nevertheless, any move by users to a less secure IT environment -- while hackers and fraudsters become more advanced each day -- is a disturbing trend.
06 August 2009
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